Gov't OKs Gaza ops 'until rockets stop'

Ministers to work with Egypt to weaken Hamas; Ramon's suggestion for unilateral ceasefire nixed.

Ashkelon 88 224 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Ashkelon 88 224
(photo credit: Channel 2)
The government will act in an "ongoing and consistent" manner to put an end to rocket attacks and other terrorist activity from the Gaza Strip, the Security Cabinet decided Wednesday in a special meeting to debate the response to ongoing rocket attacks on Ashkelon and the western Negev. The ministers also decided that it would coordinate with various elements, including Egypt, in order to weaken the Hamas government without creating a humanitarian crisis. Israel, they decided, will continue to further peace efforts while maintaining operational freedom to conduct counterterrorism measures and focusing on hasbara (public diplomacy) efforts to bolster Israel's media image. The home front was also addressed during the meeting, with ministers deciding to divert attention towards providing further protection for Israeli citizens living within the range of the rockets. According to Israel Radio, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz demanded that the IDF be sent on a large-scale operation to "crumble Hamas," but was overruled by the rest of the forum. Vice Premier Haim Ramon abstained, claiming that the resolution was inadequate. Israel, he said, should declare a unilateral cease-fire, and announce that in the case of a Kassam attack the IDF would open fire on the source and Gaza would be cut off from all supplies, including gas and electricity. During the Security Cabinet discussion, three Kassam rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. One of the rockets fell in the western Negev, while the other two hit open areas south of Ashkelon. There were no casualties or damage reported. During the Security Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would continue its operations in the Gaza Strip so long as rocket attacks from the territory continue, Army Radio reported. Late Tuesday night, IAF aircraft fired at a number of Kassam launchers that were pointed at Israel. The pilots confirmed that the launchers were hit.